Michael J. Haren, «The Naked Young Man: a Historians Hypothesis on Mark 14,51-52», Vol. 79 (1998) 525-531
The article starts from the premiss that the young man in question - whatever his subsequent symbolical value - was a historical person. It notes the proximity of his association with Jesus implied by the evangelists usage. It comments on the fact that in the sources for the Passion there is only one figure besides Jesus who was the object of a projected arrest by the authorities and one figure besides Jesus on whom an arrest is known to have been actually attempted. Suggesting that the historian dealing with secular sources would be prompted to consider an identification accordingly, the article examines the implications.
14,51-52, it would have been necessary to preserve discretion in the immediate context of the writing of his Gospel may be doubted, but the consideration is not decisive. Discretion might still have been advisable if the Gospel was written before the fall of Jerusalem and there was a supposition that it might circulate there. To adapt an observation of Best "that those who are on the run do not write Gospels" 20, one may surmise that those "on the run" do not get written about in Gospels. It is just possible too that, if the tradition by which the detail was transmitted to Mark had suppressed the name of the young man, the identification might have been lost by the time that the evangelist received the story.
A second and quite different problem concerns the young mans garb. Saunderson, in a detailed examination of the possible interpretations, allows for the possibility that the garb may not have been quite so startling as the text implies. The young man, it is speculated, might have been wearing a xitwn (though why the evangelist should not have used that term is unclear). "The lowest temperature that night, assuming temperatures not to have changed unduly since then, would have been above 52oF/11oC, and he would have been well insulated by the folds of his double garment" 21. In point of fact, we do know that somewhat later the night was cool enough for Peter, fully dressed, to need to warm himself at a fire (Mark 14,66; John 18,18) in what might be imagined somewhat perilous circumstances, especially if there were thought to be a direct threat to others of the movement. Certainly, that a well-off man (such as Lazarus clearly was), who cannot be thought to have arrived on the scene impromptu, should within any conventional interpretation have been so sparely dressed as to attract the notice preserved in Marks account must be excluded. In Lazarus case the form of dress described would have to be frankly acknowledged as extremely remarkable. It would also have a very particular resonance.
The word neutrally rendered as "linen cloth", which alone, if the text is literally understood, the young man wore over his body, is the same, sindwn, as that by which at a proximate juncture Mark will describe the body of Jesus as wrapped for burial. (Mark 15,46). It is therefore open to interpretation, perhaps even strongly suggested by the proximate recurrence of the word, that the young man was naked except for being wrapped in what might, in Marks terminology 22, be used to wrap a corpse. That the sindwn should be grave-clothing which had actually been used must be excluded on grounds of the associated ritual impurity. The wrap might be